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Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Orphans

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2000 at 12:00 AM

Taking the terms "dysfunctional family" and "dark comedy" to their most demented levels are the cast and director of Orphans. This independent film from Glasgow centers around four adult siblings on the evening before their mother’s funeral.

While the eldest brother, Thomas, sings a tribute to his mother in a local pub, a brawl breaks out. In the midst of that chaos, Michael gets stabbed; John is determined to avenge the stabbing; their handicapped sister Sheila gets lost venturing alone in a malfunctioning wheelchair and Thomas resumes an all-night vigil at the church. While they all take to their separate paths, despair follows – including guns going off, a near rape, and a storm which rips the church where the service will be.

Eventually, the four reunite in grief, and at least three of the siblings have learned from their daunting experiences the night before. For Michael, the death of his mother seems to have had the most detrimental impact. He distances himself from his siblings and life as if he truly feels like an orphan.

Cannes Festival award-winning actor, Peter Mullan spins this unusual and dark tale for his freshman project as a writer-director. Although one can give him credit for embarking on a challenging genre and creating interesting character studies, while incorporating the high-pressure task of placing the dark comedy in a time-sensitive arena of about nine hours, that may have ended up being the combination that became his downfall. Balancing the elements of such a genre is a delicate matter.

Unfortunately for Mullan, he’s a bit heavy with the dark and weird, and stingy with the humor. Additionally, the characters, while complex, are not that interesting, and the shortness of time taking place in the movie doesn’t translate for the viewer. This overnight drama feels way too long for those watching it.

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